LITERARY LIFE 253
nor for poetic beauty which is better shown in the Western Chamber (Hsiksiang), nor for grandeur of passion as in The Hall of Longevity (Ch'angshengtien). But the Romance of the Guitar nevertheless holds its own in popularity by its sheer appeal to the beauty of domestic love and loyalty, which always finds a warm place in the Chinese heart. Its influence is more truly typical.
There was a talented scholar of the Han Dynasty whose name was Ts'ai Yung. Because his parents were old, he forsook all ambitions for a political career and was content to stay with his parents at home. He had just married a girl, Chao Wuniang, and the play opens with a scene of their happy family feast in their garden in spring. There was, however, an imperial edict calling for literary talents in the country, and the magistrate had reported Ts'ai's name to the court. This meant a trip to the capital and long years of absence, and there was a struggle between loyalty to the Emperor and filial piety and wedded love. His old father, in a spirit of self-sacrifice, urged him to go, while his mother, with her sounder common sense, opposed. Ts'ai finally had to go, leaving his aged parents in the care of his young bride and a good friend by the name of Chang*
Ts'ai was successful in his examinations, coming out as the first scholar of the land. Then trouble began. For the prime minister Niu had an only daughter, a beautiful and talented girl, whom he loved more than anything else on earth. Ts'ai was forced into marriage with her against his wish, and on their wedding night, with all worldly glory before him, his happiness was marred by the thought of Chao Wuoiang. The minister's daughter found out the truth and planned with her husband to ask permission to go home and see their parents, but her father was greatly angered and would not hear of it.
In the meanwhile the conditions at home were going from bad to worse. Chao Wuniang was the only one supporting the family by her handiwork, and there came a famine. Luckily there was famine relief from the public grainage, and Chao received her share. On her way home, however, she was robbed of her rice, and was going to jump into an old well when she thought of her responsibility toward the old people and desisted. Then she went to see Chang, Ts'ai5 s friend, to borrow a handful